Michael Rocco will be the starting quarterback for the Spiders for the first time in his career on homecoming weekend as the team hosts Rhode Island.
Rocco will be replacing Michael Strauss, who has performed consistently for the Spiders and led them to a 4-2 record so far, but has been sidelined with a fractured ankle.
Rocco is fortunate to be starting his first game as a Richmond Spider against a Rhode Island team that has not won a game yet this season. The Rams have allowed opponents about 510 yards of offense on average, which lines up almost symmetrically with Richmond’s 508 yards per game of total offense. Rhode Island has also averaged only about 260 yards per game offensively, which bodes poorly for the team as it will try to keep up with Richmond’s high-scoring offense.
Richmond’s offense will likely be tweaked to fit Rocco’s skill set, even though he told SpiderTV earlier this week that there wouldn’t be any changes noticeable to “the naked eye.” When Rocco has played this season, he has been featured more often as a runner than a passer, and the formations were more run-friendly than they were with Strauss in the game. Expect the Spiders to run the ball more often than they have been so far this season, especially against a Rhode Island defense that is allowing nearly 270 yards of rush offense each game.
The only significant advantage on paper that Rhode Island holds against Richmond is the turnover margin. Even though the Rams have turned the ball over 15 times this season, 2.5 times per game, the Spiders have still turned it over more, totaling 17 turnovers, almost 3 times each game.
Rocco will have to stop throwing interceptions if the Spiders are going to earn a win on Saturday. He has only thrown three interceptions this season, but those came on only 45 pass attempts, which means he throws an interception once every 15 passes, on average. Comparatively, Strauss has thrown four interceptions on 203 passes, averaging less than one every 50 throws.
Despite Richmond’s clear advantage in almost every statistical category, this game is not one to write off. Last year, Richmond traveled to Rhode Island and suffered a stunning loss to the Rams. The Spiders will have to perform well against a team that will surely be hungry for its first win of the season. Expect Richmond to do so and to come away with a victory this weekend.
The game will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Robins Stadium. Alumni can purchase tickets for $15 (half-off the usual $30) because it is homecoming weekend.
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